Opinion: More documented Hodgson deception

Jul 10, 2022

To the editor:

In December 2021, the Bristol County for Correctional Justice, in alliance with other groups, staged a rally in front of the New Bedford Ash Street Jail, protesting the continuously reported appalling conditions endangering the health and safety of the incarcerated and employed in the facility.

Sheriff Hodgson, observing the rally from his parked vehicle,   claimed that he receives outstanding and positive reviews from various organizations for this facility.  And on a previous occasion, after being criticized for documented  health and sanitary code violations, was quoted as saying “you can eat off the floors.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health, pursuant to its mandate of bi -yearly inspections of county jails, in April 2022, a few months after Hodgson’s interview, issued the findings in a letter to Sheriff Hodgson. This published document cited over a hundred health and safety code violations , many of them repetitive and existing when Hodgson made his public boasts.

Very significantly this inspection contains corroborating evidence that there were pervasive plumbing and mold problems  as  reported by those incarcerated in this jail.  In nine  of the cells there was “a strong odor present,” undoubtedly attributed to the unflushable human waste referred to in the many letters and petitions received by the DPH and the Massachusetts Attorney General. Many cells, toilet and showering areas,  had either dirty or damaged walls, ceilings or floors. 

The nurses station had “ceiling surface water damage”and “upholstery damaged on the examination table.” The staff bathroom had a “toilet seat missing.”  The “main exterior door was not vermin proof” nor was the “rear exterior door vermin proof.”

These inspections are not conducted by paid employees, nor organizations that the Sheriff is a paid member of, nor on the board or advisory committee. 

It is also reported by correctional officers, who are reluctant to being quoted for fear of retaliation, that there has been an inordinate number of resignations and premature retirements in the last two years owing to the physical and emotional environment at all the Bristol County Correctional facilities. 

Fortunately, there is an upcoming election and the voters who have familiarized themselves with the  profound and documented inefficiency, mismanagement and disregard Sheriff Hodgson has shown towards those detained or employed at his facilities, can elect a new sheriff,  and thereby demonstrate that Sheriff Hodgson’s real commitment was to keeping his job safe and secure, not the community.

Betty Ussach,